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Low-price zones to be in major stores

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Starting next Monday, six major hypermarket and supermarket chains of Taiwan will establish special zones providing consumers with a selection of affordable basic merchandise, according to Paul Chiu, vice premier who doubles as director-general of the Cabinet-level Consumer Protection Commission (CPC).

The following items will be available in the low-priced zones: eggs, salad oil, rice, flour, milk powder, instant noodles, soybean sauce, as well as daily necessities including toilet paper, bath foam and shampoo, said Liu Ching-fang, a CPC division chief, noting that the number of low-priced goods may increase in the future, depending on consumer price fluctuations.

"Aside from lower prices, these goods are of high quality as they are required to meet national food safety standards," Liu said. "Hypermarkets should always maintain a steady supply of low-priced basic merchandise, unless during states of emergency. While this proposal is not legally binding, I'm sure retailers can understand there is a greater need to look after the interest of the public during hard times," he added.

Among those participating in the campaign are hypermarket chains, including Carrefour, RT-Mart and Geant, as well as supermarket chains, including Pxmart, Matsusei and Wellcome. Among them, Pxmart, better known as Chuan Lien Center, is characterized as a grocery discounter with 402 stores islandwide and on offshore islands, a figure higher than the other five. A total of 48 Carrefour stores and 23 RT-Mart stores are providing low-priced products in the in-store special zones.

It is unclear at this point when the spate of consumer price hikes will come to an end, Liu said, adding the end of the campaign depends entirely on how market prices move about in the future.

Since retail prices in the zones are lower than those in other areas, consumers who are not so brand-focused may be tempted to purchase the products in the zones, said Liu.

According to Chiu, these stores can capitalize on the campaign as the offering of lower-priced products will fuel sales. At the same time, selling these items may curb inflation a little, he added.

With the Dragon Boat Festival just around the corner, the CPC is working actively to secure promises from these retailers that they will not hoard festival items and daily necessities, Chiu said.

The supply of daily necessities and festival food products should be sufficient before the upcoming festival as weather becomes clear and vegetable prices, currently controlled by the Council of Agriculture, are expected to drop further, Chiu said.

The Dragon Boat Festival falls on May 5 on the Lunar Calender, or June 8 this year.

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